National hit[edit source | edit]EditOld fish fry sign, New Orleans
The single was a big hit, topping the R&B chart for twelve non-consecutive weeks in late 1949. It also reached number 21 on the national chart, a rare accomplishment for a "race record" at that time (although the very popular Jordan had already had earlier crossover hits). Jordan's jump blues combo was one of the most successful acts of its time, and its loose and streamlined style of play was highly influential.
First recording[edit source | edit]Edit
"Saturday Night Fish Fry" was first recorded by Eddie Williams and His Brown Buddies, which featured the talk-singing vocals of Ellis Walsh. The act had recently had a number 2 R&B hit with the song "Broken Hearted", and "Saturday Night Fish Fry" was intended to be the band's followup. However, the acetate for the Williams band version found its way to Louis Jordan's agent and as Williams later recalled, "They got theirs out there first."
However, Jordan also reconfigured the song, taking a refrain that had been intermittent in Wiliams' version -- "And it was rockin', it was rocking, you never seen such scuffling and shuffling 'til the break of dawn" -- and refocusing it as the recording's hook, singing it twice after every other verse. The Jordan band also dropped the shuffling rhythm of the Eddie Williams original, accelerating the pace into a raucous, rowdy jump boogie-woogie arrangement.
The recording, which at 5:21 ran longer than a standard side of a 78 record, was broken into two halves, one on either side of the release. The song's lyrics are in the first person, and describe two itinerant musicians going to a fish fry on Rampart Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. The scene becomes a wild party that is raided by the police, and the narrator ends up spending the night in jail.
Rock 'n Roll[edit source | edit]Edit
Jordan's "Saturday Night Fish Fry" has been called one of the first rock and roll records. Chuck Berry was quoted as saying, "To my recollection, Louis Jordan was the first one that I hear play rock and roll." The number has since been covered by many other artists, including Pinetop Perkins, Dr. Feelgood, B.B. King, and The Coasters. Jordan himself re-recorded the song in 1973 for an album entitled I Believe In Music.
Elsewhere[edit source | edit]Edit
BBC comedy-show host Stephen Fry adapted the song's title into a play on his own name and used the result for his six-part 1988 programme Saturday Night Fry. American radio station WHRV, broadcasting from Norfolk, Virginia, uses the song's name for its Saturday night early-jazz program hosted by Neal Murray.